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Raffles Bali - The History of “Nyepi” Silent Day in Bali
March 7th 2023

The History of “Nyepi” Silent Day in Bali

Celebrating the arrival of the New Year is a significant event in every culture and religion worldwide. While some cultures like the Chinese and Muslims commemorate the occasion with music and festivities, others like the Hindus of Bali choose a more solemn approach with their ritual of Nyepi.

In stark contrast to boisterous New Year celebrations, Nyepi is a day of complete silence and self-reflection. The day after the dark moon of the spring equinox, the island of Bali shuts down all lights and sounds, stops all traffic, and abandons all worldly activities to focus on connecting more closely with God and introspection. The word Nyepi means “to keep silent” in the local language.

The day before Nyepi, the Balinese carry out the Melasti or Mekiyis or Melis ceremony, which involves cleaning statues or symbols that help concentrate the mind for praying. The ceremony is a way to clean up the universe and its contents and take Amrita, the source of eternal life, from water sources like the sea, lakes, and rivers.

Three days before Nyepi, villagers symbolically take statues of their gods from their temples to be cleaned in rivers or the sea. The gods’ symbols are then purified with water and brought back to their respective temples.

The day before Nyepi, villagers exorcise the devil in the main street of the village with an Ogoh-ogoh, a giant statue symbolizing evil spirits made of bamboo, which is paraded around the village before sunset. The Balinese believe that Ogoh-ogoh represents the evil spirits surrounding their environment that must be removed from their lives to create a harmonious relationship between man, God, and their environment. At night, they celebrate Ngerupuk by making noises with bamboo and burning Ogoh-ogoh as a symbol of getting rid of “bhuta kala” or demons.

On Nyepi day, Hindus follow the four restrictions of “Catur Brata Penyepian”: prohibiting the lighting of fires, physical work, movement or travel, and entertainment. The Pecalang, traditional Balinese security forces, ensure road safety and prohibit activities that disturb Nyepi. Non-Hindus are also asked to stay indoors to honor this significant day. Any violation of these provisions incurs penalties determined by local villages.

Nyepi is a time for introspection, closeness to God, family, and Bali itself. By ceasing all activity, the earth is given an opportunity to breathe and regenerate, and the Balinese take a short break before resuming daily activities. Ngembak is the day when Catur Berata Penyepian is completed, and the Hindu community forgives each other and engages in Dharma Canthi, reading ancient scripts containing songs and lyrics.

In conclusion, Nyepi is a unique and special way of celebrating the New Year for the Balinese, focused on self-reflection, spiritual growth, and environmental regeneration. Its rituals and traditions make it one of the most profound and significant cultural events globally.

Let us take you on a bespoke Stargazing experience using our own in-house Telescope during Nyepi Day to pinpoint your favourite constellations or just marveling the magnificence of the heavenly bodies. A once in a 420 days journey.